Gotham (FOX, Mondays, 8/7C) continues its creative resurgence this week with the third chapter in the ongoing Rise of the Villains arc – The Last Laugh. Now darker than ever, the show really feels like it belongs in the Batman section of the DC universe.
The Last Laugh gives us the much anticipated reason for Theo Galavan’s desire to destroy Gotham City and it’s a doozy! At the same time, we get a peek inside the Galavan household and see that Barbara (Erin Richards) has become close to Theo’s equally villainous sister, Tabitha (Jessica Lucas) – but is there a serpent in their unorthodox Eden?
Meanwhile, Theo’s plan to give Gotham a hero (step two of the bigger plan) gives Jerome (Cameron Monaghan) a bigger audience; Gotham Children’s Hospital has a benefit (there’s a magician!), and Jerome’s good old psychic dad (Mark Margolis) makes a prediction.
Gordon (Ben McKenzie) refuses to take down the tape sealing Essen’s office until her killer is caught; Bullock (Donal Logue) shows an unexpected sense of style, and Alfred (Sean Pertwee) encourages Bruce (David Mazouz) to take a risk before getting burned when he takes one.
Selena (Camren Bicondova) and the Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) have a couple of juicy moments, too – Selena with Bruce and Penguin with Bullock. Even when characters aren’t prominently featured, they still get some worthwhile scene that adds texture or shading to their story.
John Stephens has put together a dazzling script that really pays off in unforeseen ways and Eagle Egilsson’s direction is, like that magician mentioned above, a lively display of misdirection and wonder.
Frain continues to be one of the most fascinating actors around, giving Theo Galavan a coolly diabolical depth beneath a surface civility and making it almost impossible to predict what he’ll do next. Unlike the chaotic Jerome, Galavan works to a certain logic – it’s just not what most people would recognize as logic.
McKenzie’s Gordon has taken to working in a way that’s much closer to bullock’s original methods – though we can see that it pains him to do so. Dr. Lee Thompkins (Morena Baccarin) also continues to surprise (and gets one of the ep’s best lines…).
Gotham City is now well on the road to being the hell on earth that would spawn a Batman and we’re nowhere near the caped crusade’s entrance so we can only imagine how much darker things are going to get.
If season two doesn’t slide back into the bad comic book soap opera it wallowed in during the second half of season one, this could a season of DCTV for the ages.
Final Grade: A